Selecting  a Heat Lamp

  Using a heat lamp, preferably one that emits 250-watt infrared heat,  is your best bet for keeping chicks happily toasty. While screw-in ceramic  heaters are also effective, ordinary incandescent bulbs, electric heat pads and  hot-water radiators are not recommended because they don’t provide reliable  heat at an optimum temperature and run the risk of overheating your chicks. 

 Purchase a red-tinted bulb instead of a  clear or white bulb if you can — red light is less stressful to chicks than  white light, and chicks exposed to light/dark cycles sleep better, are calmer  and are less likely to peck feathers. Some people use two smaller-wattage lamps  instead of one high-wattage lamp so that the chicks will still have heat if one  of the bulbs burns out in the middle of the night.

Mounting  the Lamp

  Insert the bulb into a metal reflector  with an adjustable clamp and ceramic socket, and mount the lamp off the ground,  facing down into the enclosure. For best results, shine the lamp on one end of  the enclosure so the chicks can self-regulate their temperature by moving from  the cool end to the hot end. Make sure the lamp has no way of falling or  touching anything flammable. 

Keeping  Chicks Comfortable                                                                                            

1st Week 

92 - 95°F


2-3 Weeks


85 - 90°F


3-5 Weeks


80 - 85°F


5-8 Weeks


70 - 80°F


8 Weeks +


room temperature


By adjusting the lamp up and down, you  can fine-tune your brooder box's temperature. Start the lamp a day or so before  adding your chicks. Use a non-breakable thermometer placed at chick  height to determine the ideal heat lamp placement. Temperature (and heat lamp  placement) varies according to chick age; the temperatures listed to the right are  general guidelines provided by Virginia Tech's Cooperative Extension Program.

Before adjusting the temperature,  monitor your chicks' behavior. Comfortable chicks will spread themselves more  or less evenly throughout the brooding area. Cold chicks generally huddle  together under the lamp, cheeping loudly. Overheated chicks often stand apart  from one another, far away from the lamp, panting with their beaks open. Adjust  the lamp up or down accordingly until the chicks are comfortable.

 Looking at the chicks' legs will also  give you an indication about their temperature preference. The legs of cold  chicks are cold to the touch and appear puffy or swollen. The legs of  overheated chicks can look dry, thin and dehydrated.